Maize from Zambia
More maize arrive in Malawi from Zambia

“Put my personal cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his grain money.” And the steward did as Joseph had told him.

When they had left the city, and were not yet far away, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil to us for good paid to you? Genesis 44:2, 4

 

The world’s first grain deal was when Israel (aka Jacob) sent his sons to buy grain in Egypt at a time his country had a severe famine. Joseph who had been sold by his brother into slavery, was now chief minister in Egypt and in charge of all grain sells in this foreign country.

The story almost goes wrong for the slave-selling brothers when their youngest is accused of stealing Joseph’s gold goblet. Had it all been true, the consequences would have been devastating. Among them continued hunger in Israel’s country, Benjamin imprisoned and maybe even killed; but most importantly, Israel might never have brought his entire tribe to Egypt and God may have never had the need to save His people from the Egyptians.

Scroll several centuries and a couple of Millenniums and into Malawi and her good neighbor Zambia, there are several stories of “helping each other as Joseph did for his brothers. In 1975, former Zambian President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda made an urgent impromptu and unannounced visit to Malawi to buy maize. In recent times during the Bingu wa Mutharika Administration, Malawi has also provided our neighbor with the regional staple in their times of need.

It is therefore not surprising that as the country continues to experience threats of famine in some parts of the country, the two governments to meet and negotiate the purchase of maize to avoid hunger, disease and or death.

In the ongoing Malawi-Zambia maizegate saga, what is surprising is the level of implicit high-level complicity in the scandal that refuses to go away. That high-ranking officials of the Malawi government moved to make colossal benefit on the backs of starving Malawians that now have to cough up double the amount due to these officials’ obscene greed is tantamount to a treason.

In his recent response for his resignation, Minister of Agriculture, George Chaponda admits to have been part of the negotiations. The CEO of ADMARC, Foster Mulumbe is also involved. The two are implicated in the decision of using a middle man instead of the Zambia authority in the purchase of maize that has caused the staple to land in Malawi at double the cost; from MKw5,000 to MKw12,000.

Without faulting the Minister at the outset, some questions must be answered, among them: at what point did the government of Malawi stop negotiating with the government of Zambia? Who made this decision? Did this discussion come before the minister’s attention, after all in his own words, he did travel (at government’s expense) to Zambia to negotiate with his counterpart? Who made the fatal decision to “deal” with the third and non-government entity that has caused the maize to land at the extraordinarily exorbitant prize.

Lastly when stealing on the backs of millions of starving fellow Malawians, do you really need to steal that obscenely? While stealing is stealing and a punishable offence anyway you look at it, but really, MKw10b is over the top.

George Chaponda
Chaponda: At the center of Zambia maize scam

What would be appreciated would be for Minister Chaponda to tell the country, what did you do after you learned that the deal had shifted from Malawi government-to Zambia government, to Malawi government to third-party make us rich man? Minister Chaponda should remember that as an elected MP and government minister, you are a steward in the portfolio entrusted to you. You are, so to speak, the employee of the very citizens you are robbing by this over-charged maize. Herein lies the treason charge. The Malawi people have been betrayed through the subversion in the saga.

As the well-constituted Maizegate saga commission, headed by Malawi’s undisputed Iron Lady, former Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa, it would be prudent for the President to quite the waters of the two countries right and proper indignation and clear the airwaves of the continued volley of heated exchanges of those involved and or named in the saga.

During the Fieldyok saga (involving then Minister of Education Sam Mpasu), former President Bakili Muluzi can testify that he had to remove Mpasu from his cabinet portfolio to enable commission perform their tasks without fear or reprisals. The President Mutharika needs to do the same in regard to Chaponda, Mulumbe and any other operatives in the saga.

A last word on constituting of executive boards. It comes as a surprise that the constituted ADMARC and University Council boards do not have a single woman on them. President Mutharika may have a phobia about women in high places, however these two institutions (as with so many others) require at least two women for the country to make headway. If Mr. President you are serious about bringing lasting and effective change, please bring in the mother-types into the boards. Let women’s voices be heard in the solutions to the challenges the country faces. I know President Mutharika knows that this is pragmatic leadership.

Let us stamp out corruption in all its forms, including by not keeping our corrupt friends in power; let’s end hunger without resorting to greedy get-rich-fast tactics at the expense of the very people that put us in power.

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